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Digital Economy Act Commencement

Volume 627: debated on Monday 17 July 2017

In April this year, Her Majesty the Queen gave Royal Assent to the Digital Economy Act 2017. The Act introduced measures to help consumers access broadband, build digital infrastructure, protect children from online pornography and enable better public services using digital technologies.

A number of important provisions in the Act have already come into force. These include powers on broadband USO, switching, automatic compensation and information powers to help consumers accessing electronic communications services, protection for citizens from nuisance calls and others.

I can today inform the House that the Government have made the first commencement regulations to bring into force a considerable number of other sections of the Act.

We have taken steps to implement the new age verification requirement for online pornography as part of our continuing work to make the internet safer. The new scheme is complex and will not be fully in place until April 2018, but today we are bringing into force powers to designate the regulator and powers to allow guidance to be issued.

We are also bringing into force measures to improve digital connectivity across the UK, starting the implementation of the new electronic communications code to assist operators to develop new infrastructure, putting in place planning reforms and giving powers to allow Ofcom to make better use of radio spectrum to improve mobile connectivity.

We have also started the process of implementing the measures in the Act that allow the Government to make better use of data. Powers to allow HMRC to share non-identifying information in the public interest will come into force and help deliver more effective and efficient public services. We will also bring into force the information sharing arrangement with the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office to help those who have suffered personal injury as a result of employment to trace liability insurance policies. New provisions to enable public authorities to share information with the UK Statistics Authority will also commence.

Finally, to help consumers better manage their bills, we will commence powers to require mobile operators to offer bill limits to all their customers. To allow operators time to adapt their systems and processes, I am today announcing that the requirement will come into force from October 2018.

Commencing these provisions marks another significant milestone towards implementing the Digital Economy Act 2017 and delivering our digital strategy.